SVN Conference: A Place to Pursue the Naked Truth

Reynolds-Anthony Harris attends 4-day event to receive feedback on latest social enterprise

Friday December 7, 2012 -- Camille Jensen

When Reynolds-Anthony Harris had a new idea for a social enterprise, he knew where to pitch it: Social Venture Network’s (SVN) fall conference.

ReynoldsThe managing director of Lyceum Partners + design is interested in developing an apprenticeship program that provides young people an opportunity to access construction and green building training programs. But the idea is still in the formative stages, and Harris wanted feedback from some trusted peers.

“One of the reasons I went back to SVN was to reconnect, and also provide a place for me to pursue the naked truth,” he tells Sustainable Solutions.

“What I mean by pursuing the naked truth is testing an idea with people who think like I do, who may have other perspectives. So, I did my one-minute pitch with a number of people during my last experience, and I can tell you I got some tremendously helpful feedback and support.”

Harris is no stranger to the impact of SVN. He attended his first SVN conference 15 years ago, where he first learned about social venture, kick-starting a more than decade long passion around the idea of how social enterprise can serve youth while providing economic development to the inner city.

He saw the seeds of his passion come to fruition last year with the opening of Venturing North: Bike, Walk and Coffee. The Minneapolis social enterprise is a full-service bike-and-coffee shop open, which offers youth development programs that empower young people to become tomorrow’s leaders.

Some of the economic and educational opportunities at Venture North include programs like All About Bikes, a bike apprenticeship program, and Earn-A-Bike, a program for younger kids focused on bike safety and basic repair where children fix up bikes they can keep.

Venture NorthHarris says youth played a role in developing the social enterprise, reading Guy Kawasaki’s The Art of the Start, which Harris first learned about at SVN 15 years ago. He’s had many of students who attend Venture North's internship program say their lives have changed indefinitely. including a young man who immigrated to the United States and is now a freshman in college.

“He’s said that of it hadn’t been for his internship between his junior and senior high school, then life might have been different,” says Harris. “We really work hard to help each of these kids in finding their voice.”

Harris adds both Venture North and his latest social enterprise idea play an important role in bringing more visible minorities into the sustainability movement.

Harris was able to thank one of his own role models at this year at SVN’s fall conference, actor and activist Danny Glover, who presented during a plenary session. Glover made headlines in 1999 when he used his celebrity status to draw attention to the fact that taxis were not picking him up because he was black.

“SVN is a good investment,” says Harris, on the role it’s played in his life.

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